Becoming Generative: Socializing Influences Recalled in Life Stories in Late Midlife

Brady K. Jones, Dan P. McAdams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Through content analysis of adult autobiographies, this study explored possible developmental antecedents of generativity-an adult's commitment to caring for and contributing to the well-being of future generations. A sample of 158 African-American and Euro-American adults in their late 50s completed self-report measures of generativity and various forms of societal engagement, and then each participant was interviewed in depth to tell the story of his or her life. Replicating past studies, generativity was positively associated with current political and civic engagement and with involvement in religious institutions. For the entire sample, high levels of generativity were predicted by narrative accounts of positive socializing influences coming from the family, teachers and mentors, the education system, and other valued societal institutions. Among the African-American subsample, however, socioeconomic status trumped these positive socializing influences as a strong statistical predictor of generativity, even as African-Americans scored higher than Euro-Americans on both generativity and positive socializing influences. Gender differences also emerged. The results suggest that both social class and positive socializing influences from individuals and institutions may shape generativity for midlife American adults and that these developmental relationships may differ as a function of race/ethnicity and gender.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)158-172
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Adult Development
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2013


  • Gender differences
  • Generativity
  • Life stories
  • Race differences
  • Socializing influences

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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